Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 5th 2015 Contents B9
Thursday, November 5, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Rampersad sees Wright s dismissal
of African-American culture and that
dismissal s repudiation by Ellison,
as parallel to VS Naipaul s dismissal
of West Indian culture and his
father s embrace of the same culture.
It was Seepersad the progenitor,
said Rampersad, "who was imbued
with the greatest, most rebellious
cultural vigour... he had the greatest
love of the common people and
explored issues like caste... Vidia has
been most generous and (at the same
time) withholding as to how much
he owed his father.
He attributes his temperament to
his father s fear of extinction, rather
than his skill."
Rampersad acknowledged that this
was not a cut-and-dried conclusion,
and he preferred not to "cross critical
swords with Vidia."
But Seepersad, said Rampersad,
in his descriptions of Indo Trinidad
"gave a beauty to the Indian village
life," in its landscape, rituals and its
He said this would be derisively
called "local colour writing," but
From Page B6
Rampersad likens Seepersad s choice of material
to Mark Twain s choice to make the narrator of
his most famous novel (Huckleberry Finn) an illit-
erate 12-year-old boy.
Turning his attention to Shiva Naipaul, who
died at the early age of 40 in 1985, Rampersad
said when reading one of Shiva s early books, he
encountered the word "negresses," which was
used in a non-ironical fashion, and spoken by
the author s omniscient narrator.
This racial insult had caused him to abandon
Shiva s work for many years, but when he returned
to them, he found a subtle and talented writer.
What was most fascinating about Shiva Naipaul,
said Rampersad, was that he was the least Amer-
ican of the three Naipauls, and believed he might
be the most scarred. The way Shiva saw the world
was infused with a recurring theme which linked
beauty with terror or death.
Quoting a passage from one of Shiva s books
which describes a trip to Maracas, which imbued
the writer with a sense of terror, Rampersad said
had made that same journey to Maracas many
times, but had never seen it the way Shiva did.
Rampersad believes a possible cause of Shiva s
conflation of beauty and terror lies in his expe-
riences growing up in Trinidad and in Port-of-
Spain at the time he did.
At the time, said Rampersad, "There was routine
abuse of Indians in the streets. Even in my village
of Diego Martin."
This was a possible source of trauma which
never left Shiva suggested Rampersad, and one
which he was never able to exorcise.
In Africa (described in his travel book, North
of South) Shiva observed for the Gujratis, "time
had stood still," that they spoke Gujrati (which
he did not understand) and looked upon him as
Shiva s self-image, said Rampersad, was encap-
sulated in his declaration: "When I left Trinidad
at 18, I was nothing."
He saw Trinidad as a place where he was cob-
bled together from bits and pieces, incomplete
and inferior. And Shiva was never able to take
any solace in the idea of India, nor a family tra-
dition. He wrote, he said, because it was all he
The Naipaul family has produced at least two
other writers: nephew Neil Bissoondath, and
niece, Vahni Capildeo. The Naipaul conference
ended on October 30. It featured presentations
by local and international academics, like Dr
Aaron Eastley, and Dr Brinsley Samaroo.
A tour was made to the Lion House in Chagua-
nas, where one of Seepersad s daughters, Savitri
Akal, made a plea to the mayor that the Lion
House, which was in a dilapidated state, be rescued
and bought by the state and transformed into a
National Heritage site.
The conference closed with a reception at the
Naipaul House in Nepaul St in St James on Friday
'When I left Trinidad at 18, I was nothing'
Prof Arnold Rampersad drew parallels between the
Naipaul family and American literary families like
William and Henry James.
Shiva's self-image, said Rampersad,
was encapsulated in his declaration:
"When I left Trinidad at 18, I was
He saw Trinidad as a place where he
was cobbled together from bits and
pieces, incomplete and inferior. And
Shiva was never able to take any
solace in the idea of India, nor a family
tradition. He wrote, he said, because it
was all he could do.
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